PHILIPPI, W.Va. – It is with great sadness that we announce the death of former Alderson Broaddus President, Dr. Richard E. Shearer (December 30, 1919 – October 6, 2015) at the age of 95. Dr. Shearer’s tenure of 33 years is the longest of any AB president. After his retirement in 1983, he stayed in Philippi, W.Va. where he and his late wife Ruth (Mansberger) Shearer built a life with their three children Patricia, Suzanne, and Richard Jr.
Dr. Shearer began his presidency in 1951 and the basic philosophy of his leadership of Alderson Broaddus was, “A good education will provide power, but it takes good religion to give that power direction.”
In 1950, as a young pastor, he accepted the offer from the Board of Trustees to assume the presidency of Alderson-Broaddus College. At the age of 30, he was the youngest president of any four-year institution of higher learning in the United States. Under Shearer the fortunes of AB improved dramatically, ushering in two decades of growth which emerged the modern campus and identity.
Under his leadership, the majority of the campus was built and it grew from three buildings to a flourishing hub of 14 including the construction of Paul Jones Hall, Funkhouser Auditorium, Pickett Library, Priestley Hall, Heiner Hall, Kemper-Redd, Wilcox Chapel, Rex Pyles Arena, among others. Within the center of the AB campus stands the Shearer Quadrangle dedicated to Dr. Shearer for the multitude of structures that were built under his administration.
In 1968, the college established the first baccalaureate physician assistant program in the country. In addition, and amid a variety of other new academic and athletic programs, enrollment skyrocketed and AB was fast becoming a nationally recognized institution for its quality education and program.
“Yesterday, our campus lost one of the greatest presidents to have ever taken office at AB,” says Alderson Broaddus University President, Dr. Richard Creehan. “I had the distinct honor of meeting with Dr. Shearer over the past four years and getting to know his wonderful family. I am deeply saddened at the news of his passing but consider myself blessed to have forged a friendship with him. For more than 60 years, President Shearer’s life, love, and leadership have been woven into the fabric of Alderson Broaddus; his legacy can be seen across campus in countless ways, which has left an indelible mark that will not soon fade away. Recently, I expressed to President Shearer that I stand upon the shoulders of giants. In the eyes and hearts of all that have known him, who have been guided by his leadership, blessed by his courage and kindness, he is the giant upon whose shoulders I now stand.”
As an ordained minister with the American Baptist Churches, Dr. Shearer considered his work at AB a mission and ministry, and so it has been – but so much more. With his intense faith, love for learning, and natural leadership abilities, Alderson-Broaddus College was a perfect fit for him to fulfill a role in administration within an academic setting.
“President Shearer accomplished all of this with his remarkable wife by his side,” says Creehan. “Much of President Shearer’s great success can be attributed to his devoted wife and partner of 48 years. As their children will tell you, there was never a better, more loving couple than they, who seemingly led a family and a college so effortlessly. Mrs. Shearer, a wife, mother of three, professor, and First Lady loved her life and work at AB, and it showed. Together, Drs. Richard and Ruth Shearer raised a beautiful family, transformed a college, and shaped the culture of a town with their love for one another, love for God, and love for their fellowman.”
In April 2015, President Shearer was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the Alderson Broaddus Battler Hall of Fame, as recognition for all that he has done for AB, and for the Battler community. He had the pleasure of being instated into the Hall of Fame alongside his son, Richard Shearer, Jr.; they are the first-ever father-son duo to be inducted together.
“As we mourn the loss of the man who pioneered the way for our small campus on the mountaintop, I reflect upon the words of the Apostle Paul, in Second Timothy that says, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith,’” says Creehan.
This scripture is a testimony to Dr. Richard E. Shearer’s legacy at Alderson Broaddus University.
He is survived by his three children, Richard J. Shearer (and wife Candy); Patricia L. Wilson (and husband Dr. Richard Wilson); and Suzanne G. Jones, of Huntington (whose late husband was Dr. Terry Jones) as well as seven grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Alderson Broaddus University wishes to extend his entire family and friends our deepest sympathy. We pray that in this time of loss, you feel God’s love, and find comfort in the presence of our Lord.
The Shearer family will receive visitors Friday afternoon from 3-5 p.m. and again on Friday evening from 6:30-8:30 p.m., October 9th at the Philippi Baptist Church.
Burial will be in Pennsylvania on Saturday, with a Memorial Service to be scheduled at Alderson Broaddus University in November.